story 12.07.2021

Alina incorporated her hobbies into DofE activities

Alina, 15, lives in Newham, East London with her family. She’s a keen reader and baker so really enjoyed being able to incorporate these interests into her DofE activities – by writing mini book reviews for the school library to recommend books to other students for her Volunteering, and by baking and cooking for her friends and family for her Skills section.

“My favourite things to do are to bake and cook at home. I actually did that for my DofE Skills so that I could incorporate what I like. For my evidence I would take pictures and upload them. So if I was making a cake, I would take pictures of the cake, and sometimes I would make little videos just to show the process. I do enjoy reading, my favourite genre I’d say is romance, comedy. I’ve actually started going into fantasy [fiction] which is different for me but I’m enjoying it at the moment.”

Young female participant reading book

Alina struggled with the first lockdown without anything to really focus on, and also got quite worried about falling behind with her schoolwork. She’s found this lockdown much easier because she’s had DofE activities to work on and, despite being really shy and quiet before she started, has really enjoyed taking part in the weekly DofE Zoom calls led by George at the Youth Zone and has grown in confidence about joining in. She’s gone on to become involved in something she called the Westminster school programme which she said she would never have done if she hadn’t done DofE.

“DofE helped me to get through lockdown because when I think back to the March lockdown, all the days were the same, it just seemed like a blur. But now because I have the DofE, I have things to do every week. Obviously we had never been in this situation before – I did get stressed out, by school especially. I thought what is it going to be like when I go back? So there was always this underlying stress, what’s our life going to become after this? How am I going to get back to my usual routine?

To help young people get back on track, it would be really beneficial if the schools could offer more mental health support. The pandemic has affected young people so negatively and I feel like they might need someone to talk to, just to say ‘I feel behind, my work’s been really stressful.'”

The pandemic has taken a particularly heavy toll on young people, who now face rising mental health issues, record unemployment and deepening in equalities. Read what young people need to recover better from the pandemic in our Youth Manifesto.